Quebec, Canada Face Showdown over Separation

Article excerpt

Quebec separatists are trading blows with the rest of Canada in their latest bid for independence and have run into solid opposition from Western Canadians.

Federal politicians said French-speaking Quebecois should think again if they believe they could break away from Canada and still hold onto Canadian citizenship, the Canadian dollar and membership in the North American free trade bloc.

"If they decide to separate, they are on their own, and they had better know that," said Bob Mills, member of parliament for Red Deer, Alberta.

"Most people in the West are fed up with the issue . . . there is very little conciliation," said Mills, of the right-wing Reform Party, an adamant opponent of special status for Quebec.

Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau, whose separatist Parti Quebecois won power in September, unveiled a plan last Tuesday for the provincial legislature to pass a law declaring Quebec a sovereign nation.

The law would only go into effect if it is ratified by Quebecois in a yes-or-no referendum to be held next year.

Critics said that Parizeau was putting the cart before the horse by adopting a law on Quebec sovereignty before going out and asking Quebecois if they want to become independent.

But analysts saw Parizeau's strategy as an astute way to sway uncertain Quebecois and win the referendum in a province where only 35 percent of voters are hard-core separatists.

For those fearful of losing Canada's economic security, Parizeau is promising them that they can keep the Canadian dollar, retain dual citizenship and still be part of the North American Free Trade Agreement and other world bodies Canada belongs to. …